Exam season is the most stressful time of year for many students.
Sarah Gillborn, Vice President Welfare at Leeds Beckett Students' Union, tells us about 'Stress Less Fest' and how students can stay on top of things.
Why did Leeds Beckett SU begin running ‘Stress Less Fest’?
We started running Stress Less Fest simply because we know that the weeks leading up to exam period can be a really stressful time. We want to encourage students to take time out for themselves and to look after themselves during this period, and rather than putting out a leaflet or some form of publication with ways to destress, we thought the best way to do it is to bring the de-stressing activities to the students!
What have been your most successful activities, and how effective have they been in helping students?
In previous years we have had a puppy room, where students can come and play with young guide dogs for a small donation. This is really great as not only do people get to play with adorable puppies, but it also means the dogs get to be socialised with people, so it’s win-win! We also give out free fruit, and this always tends to go really quickly.
But I think the most effective thing we do is just being really visible to students. Just by being there to give out fruit, and asking them how they’ve been getting on, a lot of students take the opportunity to let off some steam, and we can remind them of how proud they should be of their hard work, and that we are always here if they need any further support.
How important is it that students take their mental health and wellbeing seriously?
Mental health and wellbeing is really important to students, and to everyone. Whether we are well or not, we all have mental health, and we are all at risk of becoming unwell if we don’t look after ourselves or if we don’t feel that we have adequate support in place. It’s really important that students look after themselves, aren’t afraid to ask for help when it is needed, and take time out for themselves when they feel like they are being snowed under.
What advice would you have for students who feel they are struggling with exam stress?
If you are struggling with exam stress, first and foremost you should talk to someone. Whether it’s family, a friend, a course mate, or a trusted teacher or lecturer. Talking about it with someone will help you to figure out why you’re feeling stressed, whether it’s workload or if there’s something you can’t get your head around, and people who you trust can help you to overcome any overwhelming stress you might feel. Also, again, it is really important to take time for yourself. Start revision early, so that you can spread it out more, and make sure that you have plenty of time to rest and to relax with friends.
Who can students contact for support?
Students can always come to their students’ union for support. Whether it’s your welfare officer or students’ union advice team, or even just a friendly member of staff, there will always be someone here who can support you themselves or direct you to someone who will be able to help. You also shouldn’t underestimate the support you can get from your friends. Stress is not an unusual thing to feel, especially during assessment periods, and although it affects us all in different ways, we can all share our stress-busting tips, and things are much easier to deal with when you’re not dealing with it alone!